Building Bridges: Our Demands

For sure we need bridges but not ones built with ashes. The finance industry must prove now or never its capacity to end its fossil fuel addiction, or must be regulated to do it.

Collectif BreakFree

Our demands for how to improve Building Bridges:

Our demands for Building Bridges are as follows:
– Creation of a strong scientific committee
– Setting of ambitious science-based goals​​​​ and creation of an evaluation process
Co-decision of the program by civil society organizations representing affected communities
– Respect for a pluralism of opinions expressed during each conference/panel/workshop, including critical voices in general as well as critical voices coming from the most affected people

Why does Building Bridges urgently need improvement?

With our demands, we target the Summit’s lack of commitment and results in a time of growing climate destruction. The organizational structure of Building Bridges, led by Sustainable Finance Geneva and Swiss Sustainable Finance Switzerland, with Patrick Odier as its Chair, has already faced both external and internal scrutiny because of its non-transparent and undemocratic nature. Due to this and many other deficiencies of the Summit, activists and some engaged NGOs shared the demands last year with members of the organization. Without science-based objectives, a result-oriented culture, evaluation and critical voices, a finance summit offering a platform for greenwashing is nothing but a huge part of the problem. The last three editions of the summit led to nothing: Building Bridges should contribute to a real and just transformation within the finance sector, rather than perpetuating practices endangering us all.

What is the role of the UN and of the Swiss Government?

Notably, the UN’s continuing involvement in the event while simultaneously criticizing the performance of the finance sector underscores a significant paradox. UN Secretary-General Guterres has articulated the need for a «giant leap towards global justice» in the financial system and the necessity to reform a «morally bankrupt global financial system». For 4 years, the Summit has falsely claimed to build bridges between the ecocide financial players and the UN system that endeavours to deal with the increasing climate catastrophe.

The Swiss government, represented by Alain Berset, who served as a speaker in the opening panel of the Summit, does not set a better example: Even though the Swiss financial sector is currently not on track to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, the Swiss State still relies on voluntary measures from them instead of imposing binding sustainable finance regulation.

Who is sponsoring Building Bridges?

The finance sector holds immense power in determining which corporations and which projects receive funding, making it a key player in addressing global challenges like the climate crisis. At the annual Building Bridges event in Geneva, the finance community comes together and aspires to “advance sustainable finance around the globe.” However, the event’s sponsors, including UBS, Barclays and BlackRock, have criminal environmental records.

UBS, diamond sponsor of the event, whose CEO has been invited to give a solo speech on sustainable finance, has one of the weakest fossil fuel policies among the main European banks as a report Collectif BreakFree co-published this year showed. At the same time, the bank recently issued loans to firms known to highly contribute to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. Among the other sponsors, Barclays was the top European funder of fossil fuels between 2016 and 2022 with 190.5 billion. BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, refused to halt investment into the fossil fuel industry and its CEO painted coal last year as an «energy for the transition». UBS, Barclays, and BlackRock are obviously using their position in the Summit not to boost a shift out of the crisis pathway but to conceal their eminent responsibility in worsening it.

Forest fires in Wallis and storms in La Chaux-de-Fonds: Climate crisis-related disasters are on the rise:

The climate crisis is already affecting weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe, leading to more frequent and severe weather extremes. With the forest fires in Valais and the storm in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland is already experiencing these impacts, though other regions of the world have been affected much more severely. The list of disasters experienced this summer alone is endless and the extent of the destruction is horrifying. To mitigate further destruction, everything possible must be done to limit global warming.

Let's stay in touch!

Together, let’s collaborate to put our demands into action and drive real change within the financial sector. Get in contact with our Collective, which is part of a vast network dedicated to fighting for climate justice and financial regulation.